March 4 (UPI) -- More than half of Hispanic men, and nearly half of Hispanic women, in the United States have heart disease, according to an analysis published Thursday by the journal Stroke.
Around 60% of Hispanic people also have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, two health problems that place them at high risk for heart disease, the researchers said.
"It's a wake-up call for the medical community [because] despite our best efforts, Hispanic and Latino populations still seem to be undertreated for their vascular risk factors," co-author Dr. Fernando D. Testai said in a press release.
"I didn't expect the numbers to be so dismal," said Testai, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Researchers reviewed data from the Hispanic Community Health Study-Study of Latinos, a research project assessing the health of people of Cuban, Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Central and South American background.
Between 2008 and 2011, more than 16,000 participants, ages 18 to 74, completed questionnaires about their health and were examined at one of four centers in Chicago, the Bronx borough of New York City, Miami and San Diego.
They focused on data for 404 adults who had a self-reported history of stroke and transient ischemic attack, or TIA, and investigated the rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, and assessed whether the participants knew that they had these major risk factors for heart disease.
They also analyzed if participants were taking medications to prevent a second stroke.
A TIA is a temporary period in which a person experiences stroke-like symptoms, according to the American Heart Association.
Just over 52% of all male study participants and 43% of female participants had heart disease.
Just under 60% of the 404 study participants had high blood pressure, while 65% had high cholesterol and more than one-third had diabetes, the data showed.
Even though up to 90% of study participants knew they had these risk factors for heart disease, only about half of them were taking medications to control these conditions.
In addition, "almost 80% of people in this study were overweight or obese, and a significant number continued to smoke despite having a history of stroke and other [heart-related] events," Testai said.
"We found many of the participants with previous stroke knew about their vascular risk factors, [though] the data indicate they are receiving inadequate treatment and support, which are a real concern," he said.